About a year ago I was chatting with an old college friend and she was relaying a long, involved story about someone who was being an asshole. Frankly, I don’t remember anything about the story except that at a number of points in her storytelling she’d stop and say, “Really?! Really?!” You can hear how she said it, right? It’s with an implied, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” I wouldn’t have ever remembered it except that in that same week I was speaking with my neighbor and she was telling me something about someone, and again I don’t remember what the something or the someone was, but I did notice that she also said, “Really?! I mean, really?!” And she also implied a, “What an asshole” to whomever she was telling me about. And now it’s everywhere. I hear it all the time. What is that? Have I missed some cultural cue? Is it from some character on TV (which I hardly watch) who says, “Really?!” in that flabbergasted, unbelieving, judgmental way? Who is it? Tell me! It’s driving me crazy.
Do you hear other phrases or words or even cadences that have slipped into common speech? Writers, when you write your characters, do you sneak those things into their dialogue? It’s a great way to place a character in time or even to flesh them out as a certain type of human. Great use of that as a device is in the 2010 movie, The Kids Are All Right, when Paul’s speech (the Mark Ruffalo character) is peppered with, “right on” and one of the other characters (is it Annette Benning?) makes fun of that to someone. It creates Paul as a certain kind of person. And Benning’s character, Nic picks up on that verbal conceit. It was fabulous. I can’t say “right on” any more because I get too self conscious now. Which is probably a good thing, anyhow.